Charities have mixed feelings about new abuse laws, but agree on more training


Coercive or controlling abuse is now a crime for which perpetrators face up to five years in prison.

The legislation, which came into force in December, is designed to target those who subject their spouses or partners to serious psychological and emotional torment, but stop short of violence.

It was drawn up in recognition of the fact that many victims are abused in more subtle, but equally nasty and oppressive ways - like being told what to wear, who they can speak to and where they can go.

They are often isolated from friends and family, or may have their social media accounts spied on or controlled by their abuser.

The new powers were broadly welcomed, but the charity sector was divided.

Women's Aid welcomed the legislation, which it had campaigned for, and spokeswoman Polly Neate hailed it as a "landmark moment in the UK's approach to domestic abuse".

But Refuge warned that criminalising coercive control is not the right approach, pointing out it will be extremely hard to prove in a court that "jealousy" and "possessiveness" is not "care" or "concern".

Chief executive Sandra Horley branded the police response to domestic violence "lamentable" and called for the authorities to "get back to basics".

But charities are united in saying far more needs to be done to train police officers and other professionals in spotting coercive control and bringing abusers to justice.